Friend and Teacher :
by Aaron Whan
Thailand, 2007

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Cyril came to our school, Trimitwhittaya in Bangkok Thailand around March or April 2007. When I was introduced to him, I was happy to hear another Irish accent (well, he was from Dublin and I'm from Belfast but never mind!), as I hadn't worked with anyone from back home since coming to Thailand.
Cyril struck me as a happy-go-lucky friendly guy from the start and this impression lasted, not only for me but everyone that knew him. Yes, I know it's a cliché, but this time it's true.

Anyway, Cyril taught P.1/5 for his term here. His class had some real characters in it. I taught them once a week and to tell you the truth I think Cyril had his work cut out for him and even though they were nice kids, I was glad to return to my own class after 50 minutes with his class! The pupils in Cyril's class loved him and he didn't seem to think they were as naughty as I claimed them to be.

I remember one time we had to do a show for the parents and we weren't sure what to do. Our classes would be onstage together as I taught the other P.l class. Cyril came up with the idea of a Ronan Keating song (the title escapes me right now). I have no idea why he picked this song, but we were both sorry by the time the day of the show came around! We must have heard that song hundreds of times. Literally hundreds. I told Cyril it was giving me nightmares and he said he knew what I meant. Apparently, the song was haunting Cyril, too.

Anyway, the show went fine except for a few hiccups. I expected this but Cyril seemed uptight about it. I tried to tell him that the parents primarily wanted to see their kids looking cute on the stage but he was annoyed that they didn't sing the song perfectly! I guess he had a streak of the perfectionist in him.

As for the other teachers at the school, Cyril got on well with everyone. He liked working at the school and all the teachers liked him. He took a lot of friendly banter about his strong accent. I have been in Thailand teaching for quite a while now, so my Belfast accent has softened (or so I like to tell myself), as the kids wouldn't understand what I said otherwise. As Cyril was quite new to teaching, his accent was still strong. One of the things he got teased over was his inability to say "three", it came out as "tree" instead. I think another one that confused the Thai teachers and the kids was when he said "bus". Cyril asked us about it after class. He was bewildered as to why they couldn't understand him when he said "bus".

Some of Cyril's slang worked its way into our daily speech. After we met Cyril, many things were referred to as "grand" and beer is still nearly always "scoops". For a bit of fun, I taught my students to answer the question, "How are you?" with "I'm grand." Cyril also taught some of his older students to say the Dublin greeting, "Howya".

Cyril was always able to laugh at himself and not just at others. When we first had lunch with him at school, he told us that his favourite Thai food was pad krapow (pork and basil leaf). The most important ingredient for Cyril was the fried egg on top. This may not seem funny, but when it was repeated at every lunch break and quite a few times in between it soon turned into a joke in school. At first you could set your watch by it.

Brian samples the pad krapow
  1. Order your food at the stall.
  2. Sit down.
  3. Wait for Cyril to start talking about pad krapow with a fried egg on top

He was right though. It is very tasty ..... especially with the egg on top.

Cyril was quite a stand out character in the school due to his motorcycle. Sometimes, if we had the last class free, we'd go home early. We're not really supposed to, but nobody seemed to mind too much, as long as you weren't too obvious about it. Well, that's easy enough on foot, but Cyril wasn't that difficult to notice as his bike roared past the principal's office window an hour before we were really meant to go home!

I only knew Cyril for just over a year, but in that time I'd like to think we became good friends. We shared a similar taste in music and we'd talk for hours over beer about music we liked and music we hated! He obviously missed the time he spent working in the nightclub in Dublin he told me about. And he was proud of the interview with the local paper/magazine he did about his good taste in the music that he played there.

Aaron & Rasana

Cyril often complained to my wife Rasana about the lack of any other music in Bangkok besides R n’ B and chart hip-hop. Rasana would defend it to which Cyril would reply, "Ah Jayis, it's the worst music in the world Rasana!" This was common after a few beers at our place. He would also tease her about being a strict wife by saying, "C'mon Rasana, give me that look of yours. C'mon, it scares me!" I found this hilarious. Who wouldn't?

Before I got married, I of course had a stag night in Bangkok. We met up at the Lumpini night bazaar for beers with my father and some friends before heading out on the town later. My dad was so impressed with Cyril's Guinness poem that it wasn't the last time he was asked to recite it. I don't think Cyril wrote the poem, but his delivery did wonders for it. On returning home, my father asked me to ask Cyril to write it down for me so I could e-mail it to him. I did. So now in Spain, my father recites the same poem Cyril shared on my stag night in Bangkok.

We had a great Christmas 2007 in Bangkok at the Dubliner Pub. Most of the people there were friends of Cyril's, but myself and my friend Ben were made to feel welcome and we all had a great day. Far too much Guinness and Jameson but what else are you going to do at Christmas. I have many fond memories of Cyril, but that day was one I will remember in particular as everyone had a lot of fun.

Cyril & Rasana

So, I only knew my friend Cyril for a little over a year, but like I said, we were good friends and I think he would say the same about me. I certainly thought a lot of him. We had many, many laughs and good times in Bangkok both in school and out.
The only thing left for me to say is that I miss him and he'll never be forgotten.

I'm sure Russell, Adam, Hobbit, Ben, Ed and my wife Rasana (and anyone I forgot) would say the same thing.

© Cyril Duncan Siam Children's Foundation
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